After months of rumors indicating the 49ers’ priority hierarchy placed George Kittle and DeForest Buckner extensions atop the franchise’s agenda, Buckner is now a Colt and Arik Armstead has a long-term 49ers contract. Buckner’s 11th-hour negotiations with the 49ers appear to have been a fork-in-the-road moment for the franchise.
The 49ers began talking an extension with their standout defensive tackle last year, only to table a Buckner deal until 2020. However, after those discussions produced a price the 49ers deemed too high, the team began holding trade talks at the Combine, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required).
Buckner’s agent and the 49ers engaged in discussions at the Combine as well, per Barrows. That may have been a last-ditch effort, based on what happened next. The sides were far apart on extension value as far back as May 2019. Two weeks after the 49ers searched for trade partners, the Combine’s host team came in with a successful offer.
The Colts valued Buckner immensely, authorizing a $21M-per-year deal. That price is just $1.5M off Aaron Donald‘s AAV and worth more than any edge rusher not named Khalil Mack. The 49ers then signed Armstead to a five-year, $85M deal. While saving $4M per year by pivoting to an Armstead re-up over a Buckner deal, the 49ers will also gamble on the former’s contract year compared to the latter’s superior body of work. Of course, San Francisco also holds the No. 13 overall pick now and still employs four former first-round picks along its defensive line.
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